I, a non-native English speaker, am writing an academic summary in medicine and I am trying to find a word for describing that cancer patients prognosis is bad. However, "bad" isn't an appropriate word for an academic context. The best I can think about is the first example below but is "serious" a suitable word in this case?

Cancer prognosis is serious.

Cancer prognosis is not always good.

Cancer prognosis is ________

Could you please help me with a suitable word?

  • What aspect of bad are you trying to convey? That it might be fatal, that it needs to be handled competently, etc.? There are a couple of dozen synonyms for bad that could apply here. Jun 26, 2021 at 12:32
  • Good point. I edited the OP a bit, adding the third sentence at the end of the first paragraph. Does it help? Jun 26, 2021 at 12:37
  • Every word has a meaning. Serious means serious, but not necessarily fatal; bad could mean anything from just the wrong side of good all the way to dying tomorrow. What is it that you want to convey? I suspect that there are standard terms in medicine, in which case a generalist English site might not be the best one (although a question written according to guidelines is on-topic here). There is Medical Sciences for a specialist viewpoint. Do check their help pages.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 26, 2021 at 12:44
  • Cancer is usually described, in the U S, in stages, which have specific meanings, e.g., it has or has not spread here or there. It’s not a question of parsing words like serious and poor.
    – Xanne
    Jun 27, 2021 at 0:20
  • If "'bad' isn't an appropriate word for an academic context" then I've been writing inappropriately for about 50 years. Jun 27, 2021 at 2:00

1 Answer 1


I think you could use poor.

Cancer prognosis is poor.

About prognosis, M-W says it means:

the prospect of survival and recovery from a disease as anticipated from the usual course of that disease or indicated by special features of the case

The example it gives is

The prognosis is poor because of the accompanying cardiovascular disease.

This NGram also shows that charcaterising prognosis as poor is the most common:

enter image description here

It is also true if you search with a wild cart.

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